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Gadget Bag: Safety First
The difference between an annoyance and an emergency in the field often comes down to having the appropriate gear and a little know-how to handle the situation. Sometimes a Band-Aid® on a blistered heel is all that’s necessary to make the world right, but at other times, more serious situations require immediate and undistracted attention. Preparedness falls into the interrelated categories of first-aid, communication, navigation and protection. Most of us venture onto the trails for a day of shooting, and here we address some of the items that should be in your bag for that kind of limited adventure. All of the gear in this article takes up very little space and a lot of it is useful for more than emergencies. In short, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have these things in your bag every time you head out to shoot.
REI Hiker’s First Aid Kit
The REI Hiker’s First Aid Kit is a fold-up, four-panel kit featuring 11 pockets for easy access to provisions. It features a zippered nylon case, a first-aid manual that you should read before leaving home and an assortment of remedies for wounds, scrapes, sprains, bug bites, etc., that will accommodate the great majority of mishaps a solo trekker might encounter. It doesn’t take up much room, and you’ll be happy to have it, should you need it. Estimated Street Price: $20.
SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger
The SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger is a favorite in the OP editorial offices. Using 100% satellite technology, SPOT works practically anywhere in the world, including the all-too-common silent areas where cell phones don’t. Press the SOS button to signal a life-threatening or other critical event and thereby notify emergency services of your GPS location and that you need immediate assistance. Once activated, SPOT will acquire its exact coordinates from the GPS network and send that location along with a distress message to the GEOS International Emergency Response Center every five minutes until cancelled or until the batteries are exhausted. In the event of a serious, but not life-threatening emergency, press SPOT’s Help button to notify your personal contacts that you need assistance, but aren’t in mortal danger. The Check-In/OK function allows you to let everyone on your contact list know that “all is well” by sending a preprogrammed message along with your GPS location. Similarly, the Custom Message feature sends your contact list a specific customized message. Finally, the Track Progress feature allows you to send and save your location, and allows contacts to track your progress in near-real-time using Google Maps. Put it all together, and it’s so much more than an emergency device—it’s a full-time communications tool that enables you to stay in touch and inform your friends and family of your status and exact location. Estimated Street Price: $150.
Garmin Rino 110
The Garmin Rino 110 combines a 12-parallel-channel GPS with a 22-channel two-way GMRS/FRS radio so you can stay in touch with other members of your hiking group—and determine your exact location within 10 feet. This compact, 100% waterproof unit allows peer-to-peer positioning within a two-mile range. Using Rino’s unique Position Reporting feature, you can send your exact location to other Rino users in your group, so they can see your precise location on their map page. The Rino 110 holds up to 500 waypoints and 20 reversible routes. It also features a built-in trip computer with speed tracking, sunrise/sunset readout, trip timer and trip distance calculator. Upgrade to a Garmin Rino 130 ($350) and add a barometric altimeter, built-in electronic compass and weather radio that scans for the nearest NOAA weather radio station. Estimated Street Price: $160.
DeLorme Earthmate PN-60
DeLorme’s new Earthmate PN-60 GPS features a fast dual-core processor, a three-axis electronic compass, barometric altimeter and elevation profiles. It displays your position in an elevation-profile view so you can accurately judge the difficulty of the terrain before you. Plus, it provides an intuitive icon-based user interface for easy one-device navigation, and can store 1,000 routes and 20,000 waypoints in its 3.5 GB of internal flash memory. The PN-60 uses a unique system to predict GPS satellite positions for near-instantaneous acquisition, and the WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System)-enabled processor is accurate to within three meters. Included maps display complete detailed U.S. and Canadian topographic and street maps, detailed vector-based maps created from the USGS topographic data and the latest DeLorme U.S. street and trail network (including bodies of water, wetlands, forests, mountains, glaciers, grasslands, rock, etc.). Estimated Street Price: $380. Compasses are cool, even if you never leave home.
Always let people know where you’re going and when you plan to return. Simple as it seems, sharing your plans could save your life. If you know the GPS coordinates of your destination and waypoints, so much the better. Precede every extended trek by informing a reliable friend about your destination, route and return date.
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Silva Ranger 515 CLQ Compass
The Silva Ranger 515 CLQ Compass bills itself as the “Pinnacle of Precision.” It delivers outstanding accuracy and heads you in the right direction fast, and the split-sighting mirror enhances performance when navigating on distant landmarks. It features three scales for quick and easy plotting with any topographic map. The geared declination allows you to set the declination for the area you’re in, ensuring constant compensation for this variable when taking bearings. The declination scale sets easily from the bottom of the compass. A clinometer lets you measure angles of inclination. This is the real deal. Buy one and learn how to use it—and you’ll have a very hard time getting lost. Estimated Street Price: $50.
Pelican L1 LED
The Pelican L1 LED flashlight provides illumination for up to 130 hours with fresh batteries. This bright, findable, yellow, water-resistant light weighs less than one ounce and measures a hair over 2.5 inches long, so there’s no excuse to be without several. Designed for close-quarters use, inside a tent, for instance, it delivers a brilliant 8.9-lumen stream of light and comes with red and blue night vision disks for signaling or other applications. Functional and highly compact, you can easily stow two or more in your kit—and you’ll never be left in the dark again. Estimated Street Price: $15.
The Petzl Signal safety light is visible over long distances and effectively announces your location for all to see. It emits a fog-piercing red light, in continuous or flashing mode, and delivers a 180º multidirectional beam that can be seen up to one kilometer away. The durable LED technology works in extreme temperatures (-22º to 140° F) and lasts 120 hours in flashing mode or 40 hours in continuous lighting mode. It’s waterproof and weighs about three-quarters of one ounce. Estimated Street Price: $15.
In the Knife/Utility Tool category, for less than $50 you can get the Gerber Suspension. It provides needle-nose pliers, a wirecutter, fine-edge knife, serrated edge knife, saw, scissors, Phillip’s screwdriver, small and medium flat-blade screwdrivers, can opener, bottle opener and lanyard access. The Suspension comes in a ballistic nylon sheath that clings close and out-of-sight. Each tool locks securely into place so you can use them all with confidence and safety. Estimated Street Price: $20.
You also need a pure blade. For the last year or longer, I’ve been carrying a Ka-Bar 4062 lock back, a lightweight folding knife designed by Bob Dozier and made of AUS 8A stainless steel. It can be easily opened and closed with one hand—an important feature for an emergency knife—but it’s street legal because it’s not spring-assisted and has but a three-inch blade. Ka-Bar made its bones as manufacturer of U.S. Marine Corps combat knives, and the 4062 lives up to its legacy. AUS 8A is a high-carbon stainless steel that offers the optimum compromise between light weight, durability and edge-holding toughness. Estimated Street Price: $25.
Dehydration is a killer. In the West, trailheads near major metro areas often have signs detailing the tragic demise of an unlucky hiker who ventured out for a day hike, became dehydrated and delirious, and expired, often painfully close to the parking lot. Obviously, a water bottle or hydration pack is a necessity. You can often find water in the field, but there’s a danger associated with drinking from ponds and streams. Potable Aqua Drinking Water Germicidal Tablets provide water purification in just 30 minutes. Small and easy to pack, 20 tablets will purify 20 quarts of water for just $12. The system has been proven effective against the flagellated protozoan parasite Giardia Lamblia when used as directed.
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According to Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and gave it to the mortals. That would make him a good guy to have around when we need to make some embers glow in a campfire. Absent a Titan, I’ve always been partial to the Bic® Butane, plus Coghlan’s Plastic Matchbox system. Bics require no intro. They’re reliable, lightweight and inexpensive, and you should stuff two or three into empty pockets. Coghlan’s boxes are retro, but decidedly effective. These high-visibility orange plastic matchboxes have a watertight seal to prevent moisture from dampening the matches, and they include emergency fire-starter flint on the bottom. They’re available at most outdoor stores.
For another few dollars, you can add an REI magnesium fire-starting tool. Similar to a hotel-sized bar of soap, use the back edge of a knife to scrape off the magnesium shavings, then scrape the sparking insert rapidly next to the shavings to ignite. This compact tool can start hundreds of fires. Estimated Street Price: $6.
1 OP readers tend to be mature individuals with families and responsibilities; they have outgrown the invincibility of the teens and 20s. (What? Me, worry?)
2 You don’t have to be far from the trailhead or your car to have a problem that can quickly become an emergency.
3 You don’t have to be old to experience a medical problem (snake bite).
4 Photographers often work alone; photography isn’t a buddy sport.
5 Great photo opportunities are often in remote areas and rugged country.
6 You don’t have to wait for an emergency; loved ones just want to know that you’re okay.
7 If you’re running late, save everyone the trepidation and unnecessary worry.
8 Cell phones have limited range and signal accessibility.
9 You don’t have to be the one with the emergency; you might save the life of someone else. You can be the prepared one.
10 Keep a record of where you’ve been, where the best shots are.
11 Easily share adventure locations with others.
12 The SPOT is only $150, plus service.